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DORCHESTER, a borough and market-town, having separate jurisdiction, and the head of a union, locally in the hundred of ST. GEORGE, Dorchester division of DORSET, 120 miles (S. W. by W.) from London; the town containing 3249 inhabitants. The early existence of the old town is evident from the etymology of its Roman names, Durnovaria and Durinum, "a place on or near the Varia," which was the British appellation of the Frome. Ptolemy describes it as the chief town of the Durotriges, and calls it Durinum , it was named by the Saxons Dornceaster, whence the modern Dorchester is derived. In Athelstan's charter to Milton Abbey, dated here, Dorchester, which then belonged to the crown, is called Villa Regalis, to distinguish it from Dorchester, in Oxfordshire, which was styled Villa Episcopalis. The Roman station stood on the Via Iceniana, and the remains of its ancient walls, the several vicinal roads leading from it, and the discovery of coins and other relics of antiquity, evince it to have been of great importance. In the Saxon age, two mints were granted to the place by Athelstan. In 1003, it was besieged and burnt, and its walls thrown down by Sweyn, King of Denmark, in revenge for the attempt of Ethelred to extirpate the Danes by a general massacre. More ...

Source: A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, 1848. Transcribed by Nigel Batty-Smith ©2014

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